Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Hardliners in Search of Moderate Muslims

A moderate is one who is given to moderation in views and practices, and who avoids extravagance and excesses. Moderation is considered a virtue in both ancient philosophy and revealed religions. Greek philosophers regarded moderation as one of four fundamental moral virtues.

The Qur’an, which acknowledges the Torah and the Gospel, directs Muslims to seek moderation in religious practices and spending, and warns Muslims against fanaticism and extravagance. The Prophet of Islam, likewise, warned Muslims not to commit excesses, and took every occasion to remind them to be moderate. “Seek religious duties with care and avoid hast,” he stressed, “for the hasty often fails to complete his journey and destroys the vessel that carries him.”

In modern days, the term is frequently used in reference to the political centrist: “a person who takes a position in the political center.” A moderate is a person who is neither on the extreme left nor extreme right of the political spectrum. A moderate also is one who does not resort to violence or intimidation to achieve political goals.

Since 9/11, we have seen a rash of articles by pundits who seek to identify moderates within the American Muslim community. After spending a lot of energy and efforts to find the elusive Muslim moderate, the pundits settle for less than perfect Muslim moderates by stretching the definition of “moderate”, “Muslim”, or both. Jen Shroder tells her readers that her hatred of Islam and contempt of the Qur’an does not prevent her from loving all Muslims. “I have liked every Muslim I have ever met,” she proclaims. In an article appropriately entitled The Plight of Moderate Muslims, a People without a Religion, published in Alan Keyes’s Renew America, she cautions against treating moderate Muslims harshly. “As America slowly admits the enemy is true Islam,” Shroder stresses, “every effort must be made to embrace the moderate Muslim, not persecute them.” Shroder goes on to explain why it is okay to be kind to moderate Muslims: “The answer is not to blind our eyes and try to convince ourselves that moderate Muslims represent true Islam. They don't. Islam is defined by its holy books, and the holy books proclaim death to all who oppose it [sic], even moderate Muslims.”

The cynicism of the extreme Religious Right aside, the need to distinguish moderate from extremist Muslims is genuine. The terrorist attacks on the American homeland have demonstrated the ruthlessness of the terrorists and their willingness to inflict harms on noncombatant civilians, and the terrorists who undertook these attacks were apparently religiously motivated Muslims. Americans of all religious and ideological backgrounds have a genuine interest in ensuring that religious fanatics do not threaten the safety and security of the public.

9/11 was particularly hard on the American Muslim community. In addition to suffering a high number of casualties, 9/11 attacks brought additional pain to the Muslim community, as Muslims had to deal with suspicious public and added scrutiny by law enforcement agencies. The Muslim community has had its fair share of the pain inflicted on Americans as 75 Muslims perished in the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. American Muslim organizations were the first to issue condemnations of the attacks and their perpetrators. Despite several dozen statements by Muslim organizations and leaders denouncing terrorism, the Religious Right pundits continue to complain that Muslim leaders have not denounced terrorism, and continue to demand more condemnations.

The search for moderate Muslims has become a priority of highest importance in post 9/11. American leaders recognized the need to distinguish between Muslim extremists who are willing to employ terror to achieve political ends, and moderate Muslims who abhor intolerance and indiscriminate targeting of civilians, and who share with their fellow Americans deep concern for the wellbeing of their country. George W. Bush’s emphasis on the peaceful nature of Islam during a visit to the Washington Islamic Center, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, and his clear distinction between the peace-loving and law-abiding American Muslims on the one hand, and political extremism and religious fanaticism on the other, was important for reassuring the public and calming public fear immediately after the attacks.

The search for moderate Muslims has attracted a number of ultra-conservative groups, who have, for decades, displayed apprehension and anxiety about the growing presence of Islam in America. Taking advantage of the climate of vulnerability and fear brought about by the horrific attacks of 9/11, and the lack of knowledge on the part of the American public of Islam’s values and civilizational contributions, hardliners embarked on an anti-Islam campaign to discredit and isolate mainstream American Muslim organizations.

Hardliners are engaged in cynical efforts to undermine the work of mainstream organizations who have been working for decades to develop Muslim institutions to nurture the needs of the growing American Muslim community, help the community integrate into the larger American society, and protect the civil rights and liberties of Muslims. Hardliners are busy in inventing Muslim organizations whose main missions are to roll back American Muslim achievements.

Daniel Pipes, whose whole carrier is built on bashing Muslims and confusing the public through half truths and innuendos, is yet to find moderate Muslim organizations or leaders. He has accused every Muslim organization and leader of repute of extremism, militancy, and radicalism. His list of militant organizations includes: The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Muslim American Society (MAS), and others. Muslim organizations have for years been the subject of his attacks and accusations. He, most recently, added the newly founded Progressive Muslim Union of North America (PMUNA) and the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) to the list.

Pipes collaborates with a group of off-centrists that includes David Horowitz, Kenneth Timmerman, Steve Emerson, and Steven Schwartz in attacking Islam and Muslims. The group employs smear tactics of “quotes taken out of context, guilt by association, errors of fact, and innuendo,” and utilizes neo-conservative publications such as the Daily and Weekly Standards, National Review, Insight, and Front Page Magazine, to coordinate their attacks.

Pipes’s mean-spirited and bigoted attacks against Muslim organizations came to the fore few months ago when he embarked on a smear campaign against the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID). Using his leverage as a member of the board of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), he pressed hard to cancel a seminar the Institute organized jointly with CSID. Pipes accused CSID of being “part of the militant Islamist lobby," and contended that it was “well-disguised, and has brought in all the Islamist trends, giving them a patent of respectability."

After conducting a thorough investigation of Pipes’s claims, USIP issued a statement that brought out the irresponsible nature of Pipes’s attacks. “The Institute was aware of and took seriously the accusations made against CSID and some of the speakers at the event,” Kay King, the director of Congressional and Public Affairs at USIP. “These allegations were investigated carefully with credible private individuals and U.S. government agencies,” she went on, “and found to be without merit. The public criticism of CSID and the speakers was found to be based on quotes taken out of context, guilt by association, errors of fact, and innuendo.” Pipes was defiant in the face of USIP’s rebuke, contending that “President [George W.] Bush appointed [him] to the USIP board in part to serve as a watchdog against militant Islamic groups.” He was ultimately pushed out from the USIP’s board as his recess appointment was not renewed.”

Failing to isolate Muslim organizations and to scare them off, the Anti-Islam campaign is now testing the old strategy of divide and conquer with the Muslim community. Pipes has procured seed funds for a new organization whose main mission is to recruit “moderate Muslims” to undermine leading Muslim organizations. The Center for Islamic Pluralism (CIP), led by Steven Schwartz, who serves as its executive director, was created to serve as “a think tank that challenges the dominance of American Muslim life by militant Islamist groups,” the Center’s mission statement reads.

CIP executive director does show profound appreciation of Pipes’s moral and financial support, and is fully committed to his agenda and completely behold to his jargon. Jim Lobe states, in a report that came out couple of month ago, that Pipes was “working with Stephen Schwartz on a new Center for Islamic Pluralism (CIP) whose aims are to ‘promote moderate Islam in the U.S. and globally’ and ‘to oppose the influence of militant Islam, and, in particular, the Saudi-funded Wahhabi sect of Islam, among American Muslims, in the America media, in American education … and with U.S. governmental bodies.’"

“The ‘extremists,’ according to the CIP proposal, are mainly represented by the ‘Wahhabi lobby,’ an array of organizations consisting of CAIR, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), the Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada (MSA), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), as well as ‘secular’ groups, including the Arab-American Institute (AAI) and the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).”

Having failed to find moderate Muslims, Pipes and company is now ready to invent them. The great irony, though, is that those who are busy producing moderate Muslims have long time ago moved from the center to the ideological fringes of the American society. The fact that they are still able to procure funds to finance their hate mongering business speaks volumes to the deep seated prejudices against Islam and Muslims that lurk among Religious Right groups who finance and support both their public and furtive operations.

The pundits leading the anti-Islam campaign will continue their business as usual, and are unlikely to be deterred by a limited exposure of their deception and distortion. The exposure must be complete. The American Muslim Community cannot, however, continue doing business as usual. It must take responsibility for the fact that Muslim bashers are exploiting its inability to mount a strong response to stop those who are digging under its feet. More specifically, American Muslims must intensify their efforts and take more seriously their work in the following areas:

1. Building national institutions and supporting organizations engaged in building leadership capacity within the Muslim community, and defending the rights and dignity of American Muslims.
2. Joining hands with local and national organizations that provide public services, and channeling their human and financial resources to serve the larger American public.
3. Coordinating their activities so as to avoid duplication and bickering, and to act in unison in face of those who espouse ill-will and ill-intentions toward Islam and American Muslims.

Muslim bashers can plot and deceive, but they cannot change the facts on the ground: American Muslims are proud citizens of this country and are intent on building their lives on the basis of the sublime values of compassion and dignity. It takes only a direct and open exposure of the American Muslims’ serious work, and the vanity of their detractors, for the deception to dissipate. “Thus does God show forth truth and vanity. For the scum disappears like froth cast out; while that which is for the good of mankind remains on the earth.” (Qur’an 13:17)

This articles appeared in the following publications:

Alt.Muslim - USA
Media Monitor Network - USA
The American Muslim - USA
Naseeb Vibes - USA


Mark said...

Very good article and a balanced conclusion!

As for Pipes and Co., the Islam haters, I am confident that they are the true extremists. Perhaps they should follow what they preach.

I am a practicing muslim and a proud US citizen, who proudly served in the armed forces.

Thank you for this informative article!

I ask Allah to expose Pipes and his gang, and to protect our Umah from their evil work. I am sure that they can never deceive Allah. I pray to him to protect the American people, from all faiths, from Pipes and all his followers.

As for us Muslims, we need to stick together and be the peaceful citizens and neighbors that the peaceful Islam teaches us. Obviously, Pipes and his followers do not read history.


Mukhlis said...

Assalaamu Alaikum.

Excellent article. Very informative. Muslims all over the world can take some cue from this.
In my view, Muslims must avoid two things at all cost.
1. Taking more extreme position in Islam as a reaction to what Pipes & Co. are doing.
2. Ridiculing our own geniun moderates.


Anonymous said...

I find it hard to believe Muslims still take automatically the blame of 911 without evidence and no judgement passed by world court, speciallly when the truth is out in the open. Please search for the truth and expose lies.

People with intelligence around the world including US (except Neocon/Defence/Oil interest group owned, main stream media)knows and the US websites are full of evidence that 911 was planned by Neocons in US government carried by US governement Agencies and Mossad by way of deception for Israel to jump start war on Muslim countries and Muslims.

On top of it we are shamelessly appologetic. Very sad situation.
At leasr we need to fight back evil with truth.


Omran said...

To my knowldege shortz is a muslim, to my knowldege he is a follower of mr.Kabbani, I don't know what is Mr.Kabbbani's agenda I agree with some of tactics in trying to presuade the government that traditional Islam is no wahabi/saudi exported Islam. However, I don't agree with anyone to try and point out who holds the wrong islam doctorine from the right one. i,e we should not label which american group are the "bad guys" for example there are MSA groups that adhere strongly to the traditional madhab mehodolgy ( they stick to the ijmaa .) What upsets me though is that Mosques import arabs as their imams who have no idea about problems muslims face in the states. and instead complaining about the opression they faced in the previous country they resided , they come to a guest house and complain about their guests( U.S) is that rude or what ?

Bill said...

The good doctor confuses his argument that the seach for moderate Muslims by a non-Muslim is somehow an indictment against Islam in general. The question still remains unanswered. Can Islam coexist or is the goal still "Dar Islam" as the ancient theology demands? Will Islam recognize women as equals with men or remain firmly ensconced in Sura 4? Will Muslims refute openly the terror in Iraq or will they remain intimidated by the terrorists who have become the leading examples of Islam to the world? Ah, too many questions and too many obstacles to legitmize Islam when its history is seeped in blood - Muslim blood; as it continues today in Iraq with Muslims murdering other Muslims. When will the "Moderates Muslims" demand and end to the senseless killing and the deep rooted hate? Will the good Doctor help find and support the Moderate Muslims or will he point the bloody finger of death at the Muslims that continue to rail against common respect for live and liberty? To do otherwise is indirect support for those who would deny life and liberty to seek God. Does Islam need violence to obtain credibility or can it not be spread on its own virtues? Apologies: another question.

xudayi said...

I am writing a book on moderate muslims and I have found it extremely difficult to come up with a proper definition of moderate muslims.

What is becoming clear to me is that just like the collaborators with the colonialists and the house slaves in the time of slavery, moderate muslims of modern day are the sellouts who are being used by the West to counteract the eminent collapse of its influence in the Muslim world.

It is also paramount to look at everything that is happening with a good magnifying glass without accepting the neo-orientalists like Daniel Pipes, Jason Burke and Fareed Zakaria's explanation of the existence of moderate majority.

The real question is have the West abandoned their imperialist intentions? Have the white men accepted that they have no monopoly over thought, knowledege and science and that they are like all of us?

Muslims were not responsible for the colonialism, commercialization of slavery, the extermination of the jews, the genocide of the red indians and every other calamity including AIDS that is wiping off the black race from the face of the earth.

I am slowly being convinced that those who are fronting the moderate idea have a very sinister plan for the rest of us who refuse to be identified as moderates.

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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